The story of our patriarchs as recorded in the Book of Genesis is no doubt one of the greatest stories ever told. Each character is legendary. Its narrative is riveting. It is the story that encapsulates the history of our people.
But, who are the Jewish people? What is their quintessential nature? What trait more than any other captures their very essence?
We can find a glimpse of light at the closing of the story where we read about the passing of the last of our patriarchs, Jacob. This episode is a critical juncture for it marks the complex transition from a small tribe into a great nation.
But what exactly will ultimately define this great people? Which one of Jacob's many children will shape character of this great nation?
The mystics have no doubt. The unanimous vote goes to Judah. But not for the reasons we might think.
In a brilliant exposition of Judah's true character, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe offers a most profound insight. He suggests that it is not a "projected trait" that makes a man great. True greatness lies in one’s "submission" to a cause greater than oneself. It is not about shining ones own light, but about reflecting a light that transcends you.
Most people attribute "greatness" to overt traits such as strength, courage or wisdom. In truth however it is much more profound than that. It is a state of being, where one allows the intrinsic force of one's soul to shine through every fibre of one's existence with full transparency.
Judah, whose very name is used to define and identify the "Jew", best captures the essence of the Jewish people.
Judah is someone who is there to serve others. He has no other agenda.
He does not seek title or position.
He admits when he is wrong.
He is quiet when he is right.
He is fearless because he does not think about himself. Nothing ever stands in his way.
He is totally dedicated to a cause greater then himself.
It is never about him. It is always about others.
He is totally selfless.
This is Judah.
This is the Jew.